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Saturday 2nd February 2013 ko 15.00

Western League First Division

WELTON ROVERS 0 Dando sent off (handball on line) 78

BRADFORD TOWN 4 (Ridout 18, 23 78p 84)

Att 76

Entry £5

Programme £1

Sometimes its the little things that go wrong are what conspire to really make your day. With three of my friends heading to watch Cheddar I suggested we meet at Weston-super-Mare for lunch before we all headed off in different directions for the afternoon. As it transpired I was the only one who made in to Weston, but it did mean I approached the West Clewes Recreation Ground from the east, rather than the north had I not made my diversion.

I stumbled upon Burrington Gorge, at the northern edge of the Mendip Hills, in North Somerset. According to legend Augustus Montague Toplady was inspired to write the hymn Rock of Ages while sheltering under a rock in the combe, during a thunderstorm in the late 18th century. Nearby Aveline’s Hole is the earliest scientifically dated cemetery in Britain, the bones are roughly 10,400 years old.  Not bad for a 5 minute stop!

From there it wasn’t far to the small town of Midsomer Norton, around 10 miles south-west of Bath (Welton is a small village nearby). It’s quiet, almost sleepy with the football ground in the centre of the town, on the main road through. In fact if it wasn’t for the huge conical spoil heap in the background, called the Old Mills Batch, you wouldn’t know this used to be the centre of the Somerset coal industry, the last mine closing in Norton Hill in 1966. The locals are rather proud of their spoil heap, it sets the town apart, and is a nod to their heritage.

The town was immortalised in Flanders & Swann’s Slow Train, a song about small railway stations closing under Dr Beeching,

“No more will I go to Blandford Forum and Mortehoe, on the slow train from Midsomer Norton and Munby Road, No churns, no porter, no cat on a seat, at Chorlton-cum-Hardy or Chester-le-Street, We won’t be meeting you, on the slow train..”

In more recent years part of the town name was borrowed for the tv series “Midsomer Murders,” despite the show being set in Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire.

West Clewes are much to attract the casual football watcher, other than the notably friendly supporters. They’ve styled themselves the “Green Army” after Paul Whitehouse’s advert for Aviva Insurance, and they have two-thirds of a wonderful wooden stand built just before the Second World War. The other third was lost in an arson attack recently, and therein lies the club’s problem. The ground, including the car park is a public space. The club can take a gate, but away from matchdays there’s little to stop people walking in and vandalising the stand. So at the end of the season the stand will go, to be replaced by a prefabricated affair, with roller-shutters at the front, and the entrance will be remodelled with a set of turnstiles. It will fulfill everything the club needs, but a quirky piece of history will be lost. I was pleased to have visited while the original edifice is still in place.

The game turned out to be a personal triumph for Bradford-upon-Avon striker Paul Ridout, who scored all four goals, as Bradford added to their 6-0 win at home to Welton earlier in the season. He could have had two more, with two further efforts cleared off the line, one by the hand of defender Greg Dando, who at least had the good grace not to argue his mandatory red card! Yet for all of that the scoreline was harsh on the hosts who had much of the possession and territory, but lacked someone, anyone, who could make all that possession count for something.

On a cold afternoon, I drove away pleased I’d seen a friendly club, at an interesting ground. Get there before the “Improvements” start.